Sure, social networks are all about staying in touch with friends and family, and sharing events in your life, but have you ever thought about the risks of sharing too much?
If you're like most people, you've probably “friended” people you don't actually know in real life, or haven't seen in years, and this is one area where danger creeps in. How do you know that the friend of a friend that you connected with online doesn't have bad intentions? What's more, many social network users fail to adjust their privacy settings, potentially allowing cybercriminals access to information that they think is just between friends.
Consider a recent study McAfee did on Internet users over 50. While many see themselves as tech savvy, 52% have shared their email address online, 27% have shared their mobile phone number, 26% have posted their home address, and 12% have even revealed financial information!
And this kind of sharing is not limited to Baby Boomers—teens and younger adults also tend to share more than they realize. By putting your personal information online, you are potentially opening yourself up to impersonation, identity theft, and stalking.
It may sound far-fetched, but posting your home address could even lead to robbery. Think about all the people that share status updates and photos about their vacations while making their home address available in their profile, essentially announcing that they are away and their house is empty.
Even if you do not share your address, you may be giving away your exact location through the GPS (Global Positioning Service) function on your mobile phone. If you post pictures online with your phone’s GPS turned on, the image will include the exact coordinates of where the picture was taken, potentially allowing anyone who sees it to locate you.
With these risks in mind, take a few minutes to make sure that you are using social media safely. Here are a few tips to help protect you:
- Remember the Internet is permanent —Even if you have your privacy settings locked down, you should consider anything you do on the Internet as public knowledge. Think twice about what you share online.
- Don’t reveal personal information—Be wary of anyone who asks for your personal information online and never share your home address, phone number, Social Security number, or other identity information.
- Password protect your devices—Make sure that your smartphone and tablet is set to autolock after certain period of time and that it requires a PIN or passcode to unlock it. This will ensure that your personal information stays private, even if the device is lost or stolen.
- Manage your privacy settings—Make sure that you the highest level of privacy settings, and check them regularly in case there are any changes.
- Change your passwords frequently—Choose hard-to-guess passwords that are at least eight characters long and a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, and change them regularly.
- Turn off the GPS function on your smartphone camera—If you plan to share images online, make sure that you turn off the GPS on your device to keep your exact location private.
- Use security on all of your devices—Enjoy a safe online experience whether you’re using your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with McAfee LiveSafe™ service. This comprehensive service secures all your devices from viruses and malware, and helps keep your personal information private.
1 McAfee and The Futures Company, Fifty Plus Booms Online study, September 2013